Audience Notes

“Señor Rivera-Ortiz: My name is Jesslyn Holbrook and I work at the Genesee Valley BOCES Migrant Center in Mt. Morris, New York. I recently read an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about your latest work in India. I was surprised and pleased to read that a photography class offered to you as a youth marked the beginning of your successful career. Last winter, the group of migrant adolescents that I work with participated in a series of digital photography and photo-editing classes offered through our program. These were portraits taken by one another and then edited using Photoshop Elements. I am hoping to continue this type of program in the upcoming months, possibly with web design. I looked at the photos on your web site and I think the students would be inspired by your story. I haven't yet been to the Link Gallery in City Hall, but am planning to go and possibly take the group. I see you were here in Rochester on November 30th for the reception, but are you planning any other visits to the area or exhibits?”—Jesslyn Holbrook, Adolescent Outreach Coordinator, GV BOCES-MEOP, Mt. Morris, NY.“I just visited your exhibition at the Rochester City Hall. Thank you for putting together such a piece of work. So often pictures of the poor are viewed without context, you provide the viewer with more than images for the eyes only but for the mind to ponder. Your commentaries are at once informative but also personal—not a laundry list of facts to dehumanize but a commentary to illuminate. I went to India in July to help outsource my job. I work for a global $1B IT consulting firm with operations in Gurgaon, near New Dehli. I could not believe from my beautiful room in the Park Plaza Hotel, Gurgaon across the street there were families living in shacks. On the Sunday we took a trip to Agra—our driver got lost on the way there and the way back, it took us 6 hours to get to Agra and 5 hours to come back. On that journey we were exposed to levels of poverty on a scale previously unimaginable to me. The filth the children are living in, and the overwhelming nature of deprivation has stayed with me burnt into my mind but not really knowing what more to do about it. I made a short webpage of images I captured while in India to remind me of what I had seen and to show others. It was wonderful seeing your exhibition today because what you have done is so effective and moving. The poor in India and globally are our sisters and brothers—your exhibition brings that message forth clearly and with compassion. I wish you the greatest success in your endeavors—thank you for your work.”—Colin Coffey, Global Resource Manager, Keane Inc.“There is a point of view in these photographs that is distinctively a Manuel Rivera-Ortiz POV. It is not intellectual, although it is clear from the astounding compositions that intellect went into the shots; and it is not sentimental, although one need only look into the faces of his subjects to feel his emotional connection to them. What is palpable and distinctive about these photographs, is their profound humanity. The heart knows. And Rivera-Ortiz' heart instructs him to recognize in a street corner of a remote village, the universal within the specific. He sculpts out of the landscape a look, a sky, a river, spices on the road side, mother and child, a man missing an arm. Manuel Rivera-Ortiz makes it possible for us to journey with him and see what is not always readily apparent to the human eye. He goes beyond recording these simple truths. He has the courage to first experience them as his own, and then the will to bring them home to the rest of us—a compelling invitation to open up our own hearts.”—Susana Tubert, Executive Director, Latino International Theater Festival of New York, Inc.“The work of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz is both compelling and compassionate. To gaze upon Manuel’s images is truly an inspirational experience. For most of us his work offers glimpses into the lives of people in other countries that we may never see with our own eyes. In viewing his work, it is apparent that he has established a level of trust and connection with his subjects that allows him to capture their stories and relay them honestly and openly. Through Manuel’s sharing of his work, we see people’s of India, Bolivia, Cuba, Thailand and beyond living their everyday lives. I have the utmost respect and admiration for Manuel’s work. As he gathers images of people all around the globe, he excels at conveying the common threads of humanity with sincerity and integrity. Whether his work is considered as social documentary or photojournalism, it is stunning, beautiful and heartfelt. The purity and artistic quality of Manuel’s work puts him in a league with such masters as Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, and W. Eugene Smith. If you ever have the chance to view an exhibition of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’s work, I urge you to take time to see it. You will not be disappointed.”—Holly Szafranski, Curator, Buffalo, NY“What's amazing to me about Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’s work is his ability to take such a classic subject matter as poverty and turn it through composition and heart into images which are absolutely chockfull of humanity and expression. The work is poignant; it cuts to the bone, the candid shots of solitary moments as moving as a meticulously staged Caravaggio composition. His representations of socio-political issues, heartbreak, the struggle to survive, reveal the world's millions of forgotten stories. Yet we are also somberly informed through his images about the joy that lies beneath this seemingly ordinary experience called life.”—Maria Friske, Maria Friske Design, Rochester, NY “Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’s photographs of people living in poor villages in Turkey and Thailand, Bolivia and India don’t falsely romanticize their subjects’ poverty nor do they explicitly critique the political or economic systems that create such conditions. By focusing purely on the people who populate the poor global villages he visits, he captures the entire range of human emotion: mistrust, fear, curiosity, friendliness, happiness. Social critique may simmer below the surface of his work, but the primary message of Rivera-Ortíz’s images seems to be that hope and creativity are not mutually exclusive to poverty.”—Nick Stillman, Editor, New York Foundation for the Arts “Current”“Earlier this year I rediscovered my own fascination with photography after seeing the work of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz here in Buffalo. I was overwhelmed with seeing how Manuel understands and captures the people of the third-world in his images and his ability to transport the viewer there to experience their emotions. Manuel understands the impact of quality photo reportage, and in my opinion has captured the world unparallel to any other photographer I have myself come across. He is an inspiration to me. His photographs undoubtedly affect my thoughts on how I look at the lives of such people today going forward to tomorrow and beyond. It was a pleasure seeing the work of, and meeting Manuel Rivera-Ortiz in person.”—Mark H. Baker, Photographer, Buffalo, NY“Manuel Rivera-Ortiz is an inspirational artist. His intimate photojournalism elaborates on his intrinsic ability to relate to people of all cultures, embracing the beauty of individuals in their personal environment. I, particularly, become one with his images as they make me feel like I have known these people in his pictures for a lifetime. The images have a ‘soul’ to them which is unparalleled; inviting all who have the honor of viewing them into Manuel’s world of humanistic reality. There are not many photographers that can capture a mood, a feeling, or an emotion quite like Manuel. His God-gifted talent is unique and I am blessed I have had the opportunity to enjoy his gift of imagery.”—Lisa A. Cove, RN, Rochester, NY.“Rivera-Ortiz's photos provide a unique behind-the-facade portrait of the Cuban hinterland. This is not the Cuba propagandized by Castro or Bush, but a Cuba out of Life Magazine in the 60's. We see unvarnished landscapes, peasants toiling, Lorry's transporting produce and people, and ordinary Cubans never seen in news photos of Havana and coastal centers. It is a flashback to a simpler place and time, symbolized by Pontiacs and Chevy’s from half a century ago, - tarnished, but still running and working daily, despite their potential value as classic cars! Manuel gives us a rare glimpse of a rural nation caught between pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary Cuba, with each photograph illustrating a different chapter in the overall narrative.”—Carl Mrozek, Eagle Eye Media, Depew-Lancaster, NY.“What I love most about his [Rivera-Ortiz’] work is his ability to capture a child’s innocence and joy of life no matter how poor they may be because at that very moment when he took the photo, for that very second, there was happiness. And this often fleeting happiness of childhood could be said to be the result of many things such as the freedom that comes from being able to run free in an open field or, because as children often do they happen to find something that they can use in play. To be able to capture that very essence of life is truly an art form. Manuel seems to have the ability to freeze those very special moments which he calls ‘a celebration of life’—the family bonds, the happiness these people share there in their grim circumstances in developing countries in the third world. Most importantly to me, Manuel’s photographs have an absolute sense of sincerity to them; I really enjoy looking at his work!”—Sandra Rodriguez, TV/Film Producer, New York, NY."The quiet and reflective existence of Manuel Rivera-Ortiz's images are evident in his thoughtful captions which provide the context in which his decisive moments behind the camera are made."—Miriam Romais, Executive Director, En Foco, Inc., New York, NY."Rivera-Ortiz's images of the world poor, of people in remote places from Turkey to Thailand, India to Kenya and beyond distill his perception of the outside world beyond U.S. borders through eyes that have seen too much. His heart-wrenching childhood in poverty in the outskirts of a Puerto Rican town breathe life to his images, which while being of distant lands and people, feel eerily close to home and familiar. Rivera-Ortiz clearly makes contact with the subjects in his pictures; they seem to trust him, and we the audience are in turn invited into this very private moment that happens there between him, his subject, the camera … and now us."—Karen Pelc, Artist, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY.“Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’ beautiful words and touching photographs made me stop dead in my tracks. So often I find myself traveling through life at breakneck speed, all the while wishing for things to slow down but never stopping until I drop into bed at night. The images and words that he shared in NYFA Current made me think about how often I spend time looking at beautifully manicured gardens, perfect little houses, or the sharply dressed mannequins in the store windows, but neglect to look at the faces of people that I pass on the street. Thank you Manuel for nudging me to look, really look, at people instead of looking through them or over them to get a glimpse of a ‘thing’ that, in the greater scope of life, does not really matter much. All the Best to you in your great work”—Marie V. DeFranca, West Boylston, MA.“Manuel you are an inspiration to us all. I have very much enjoyed searching out your work on the web. I cant wait to see your work from Mexico. My husband is from the state of Nayarit in Mexico and told me about how poor they were as children. It has made me really rethink how privileged I was as a child even if by American standards we were considered poor. I think back now and see just how very well of we were. I also found your work on and love the work. I was so touched by the paragraph where the little boy came up to you and asked for soap to wash with. I TRULY wish you all the best. I hope that your work reaches into the hearts of all the people who see it and helps make a difference! I am amazed by your dedication and willingness to do what it takes to get those photos. I am sure there are many times you have sacrificed to make it happen. You are truly a remarkable person. Your work touches me very deeply. In your pictures I see not just the poverty, but also the life these people have. I see that even though they may not have a world of riches they are still loving caring, alive people who all have a love for life. I see the great inner strength of humanity which comes from having to face each day with uncertainty as to where the next meal will come from. You have captured the hope in their eyes and their willingness to stay alive.”—Ramona Rios, Lake Havasu City, AZIsaac Fryar (17): “I have been checking your website regularly and sifting my way through your photography collection. A few of my peers at college who are studying creative arts are also checking it and are very impressed and love your work as I do. Other mates too, that have no artistic bone in their body, also appreciate your work very much. Cheers from Ballarat.” Trish Fryar (Isaac’s mom): “Manuel you are a really talented young man!! I managed to get into Google and was completely blown away. Your photographs of India were fabulous as was everything I managed to read about you. I hope the photographs of Thailand did the time you spent there justice and look forward to a sneak peak at them. I was quite proud of navigating around Google and seeing all the things about you on there.”—Melbourne, Australia.“Manuel’s emotionally haunting photographs procure an awareness from us all of what we see as ‘poverty,’ while equally allowing us to seek within them a bit of the familiar from our own past making it more comprehendible and digestible. Manuel has clearly seen a lot in his life, this passion for what used to be in his own life shines through loud and clear in his pictures.”— Roger Bartman, Rochester, NY.“Manuel Rivera-Ortiz’s Cuba series, is like a cinema verité journey, through a landscape both accessible and mythic. His panoramas capture a connection to an environment that prods the senses. One feels enveloped by a familiar, primal place. It is this place which will hopefully anchor a vibrant social order, as it braces itself for the tremors gathering momentum on the horizon. The engaging photograph of two little girls holding each other, surrounded by lush vegetation, workers and family members speak to the continuity and bonds of love and vision of one’s own paradise.”—Frank Gimpaya, 2004 New Works Juror, En Foco, Inc., New York, NY."Most photographers working today would say that they're trying to capture something of the "every man" in their images, a universal truth which will be framed, but not bounded by the traditional ideal of time and space. Manuel Rivera-Ortiz takes this as a given and leapfrogs to the next level with his self-described emotional photojournalism. Making his home in Rochester, NY, the Guayama, Puerto Rico, native and former journalist has put his pen next to his innate storytelling desire of point and click and created images of third-world inhabitants that is at once foreboding and enlightening, yet hopeful and humbling."—Darcel Rockett, Columnist, STAR Newspapers, Tinley Park, IL."His [Rivera-Ortiz's] work is very inspirational to me and real. He takes you there, behind the lens with him, into these countries to see what he is seeing. The pictures are not staged — you never get that feeling as you would with other photographers. To know Manuel is to know his work because he is original through and through and has an uncanny ability to capture the true nature of the lives and struggles of people in the now."—Carlean Murray, AdWorks Assistant Manager, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY."Manuel's photographs focus on images of people in Third World countries and their landscapes. His goal is to capture true life through the lens and record it. I find his work poignant, vibrant and endearing. Photography can be very invasive, but Manuel's sensitivity to his subjects is a priority and his ability to communicate with them is spite of ocassional language barriers, is very evident in his work."—Debora McDell, Community Programming Coordinator, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY."His [Rivera-Ortiz's] work on Cuba captures what the country is really about on a person-to-person basis instead of focusing on Castro and embargoes and political posturing. It's about people working and, unfortunately, suffering."—Julio Lora-Saenz, Publisher, ConXion Magazine, Rochester, NY."He [Rivera-Ortiz] has a quick eye that captures the essence of the person. You can tell that person's whole story based on just their expression or body language."—Felix Blanco, Multimedia Art Director, Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY."Congratulations on your exhibition display in City Hall's Link Gallery. I spent some time looking at the photos after our City Council meeting last Tuesday and was very impressed with your work ... Best wishes to a promising local artist and much success in your career."—William F. Pritchard, Councilmember-at-Large, City of Rochester, Rochester, NY.“[Rivera-Orti’z] work seems to pay a respectful homage to the likes of Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. More than anything, his images give his subjects what they so desperately need ... dignity and acceptance. From the boy against the wall, to the sugar cane workers, the eyes of every one that comes in contact with his lens seems to be saying not ”Please go away, I am ashamed,” but rather, “Please show the world that I am human and that I exist.”—Patricia Powers, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY.“Great show—honest and educational. Could you have Spanish text next time? More could appreciate your work.”—Sylvia Roselló, New York, NY.“Stunningly beautiful photographs. You’ve got a real eye!”—Janet Murphy, Rochester, NY.“Wonderful insight to a country!”—Maria and Richard Rossi, West Nyack, NY.“Your exhibition [Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: Cuba] is fantastic and informative. A welcome presentation to Link Gallery and Rochester. I look forward to more of your work!”—Rob Papaj, Rochester, NY.“I am very impressed with the warmth and sincerity in your photographs. Excellent descriptions too!”—Brian Peterson, Rochester, NY.“Thank you for your great vision.”—Christine Sevilla, Rochester, NY.“Work beholding to the eyes!”—Larry Allen, Rochester, NY. “I am very impressed with your education and your website. More so, I am very impressed with your fine images that resonate and move and come to life! I love the India images, especially, Home By The Road. This image reminds me of the work of Steve McCurry whom I consider to be one of the best image makers in the world. I would be interested in seeing more of your work; perhaps a book of images from India and images from Cuba and Central America! You are a talented photographer on the cusp of a major career!”—Rose Maldonado, Buffalo, NY.

GALLERY SELECTIONS"Dear Manuel: We are very proud of having had the opportunity to publish your work and believe that this is a strong and beautiful issue. I hope you are equally as pleased with it as we are. Enclosed you will find your artists honorarium. You will also receive a one-year En Foco membership, and ten complimentary subscriptions for arts professionals in the U.S., of your choosing. Make sure you submit those addresses at your earliest convenience (if you have not already done so). You may purchase also additional copies of your issue for $3.50 each, a 50% discount. Your membership includes a subscription to Nueva Luz, entry in our Photographers Image Library, and Portfolio Reviews. Your membership also qualifies you for a 30% discount at, an excellent source for archival pigment prints. Make sure to mention En Foco’s discount code: SMD06."—Miriam Romais, Executive Director, En Foco, Inc., Bronx, NY."Dear Manuel: Congratulations! I wanted to let you know that you have been selected as a winner in the En Foco 2004 New Works Photography Awards. We welcome you to embark upon an intensive project which addresses personal or cultural issues as they relate to your experiences. It was an intense process with so many entries and the selection process took a lot longer than we anticipated. Your work was selected by our guest juror and photographer, Frank Gimpaya (the creative genius behind the design of our Nueva Luz Photographic Journal). In the meantime, keep up the good work. We're working on finalizing an exhibition venue for the Spring or Summer of next year."—Miriam Romais, Managing Director, En Foco, Inc., Bronx, NY.“On behalf of NAHJ Board and staff, thank you for your [photo] donations. We [you] helped make history at the 2004 Unity: Journalists of Color Convention, where more than 8,000 minority journalists participated in workshops, job fairs and discussions. Your generous gift helped NAHJ raise over $10,000 for the Rubén Salazar Scholarship Fund that was established in 1986 to assist young Hispanic journalists pursue a career in journalism.”—Leticia S. Salazar, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Washington, DC."Dear Manuel: We are writing you today to invite you to be an exhibiting artist in our upcoming Annual Invitational. Our Invitational coincides with the Allentown Art Festival, and as we are located directly on Allen Street, this provides a wonderful opportunity to give the public a wide exposure to your work. It is our pleasure to be able to offer you this opportunity. we look forward to working with you."—Holly Szafranski, Gallery Manager, El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, Inc., Buffalo, NY.“Dear Mr. Rivera-Ortiz: Congratulations! The gallery review committee has met and is pleased to offer you a solo exhibition at the Weitman Gallery. You will be receiving a letter and contract in the mail shortly. We are in the process of devising the schedule and would love to have your exhibit with us roughly between Sept. 16 and Oct. 31, 2004. Thank you.”—Aimee Koch, Gallery Director, Weitman Gallery, Washington University, St. Louis, MO.“Dear Mr. Rivera-Ortiz: Thank you for your most generous gift to our art collection at Southwest Minnesota State University. Your donation of four photos are a beautiful addition to our growing list of works. With the help of Mr. Evans, we are developing a wonderful collection that will soon be a part of an expanded permanent exhibit here at the University. In addition to the William Whipple Gallery, we are transforming ordinary spaces throughout out campus into display areas to showcase the incredible artwork that we have to share. It is my hope that these projects will help further the University's reputation as a beautiful and unique institution. Again, thank you for your donation and for your support of southwest Minnesota State University."—David C. Danahar, President, Southwest Minnesota State University.“Dear Mr.. Rivera-Ortiz: Thank you very much for the generous donation of four of your photos for the permanent collection of the William Whipple Gallery and Museum at Southwest Minnesota State University (Family Pub, Children at Recess, Making Charcoal, and Fetching Wood). Your photos are very moving, powerful, and dramatic. They make an excellent addition to our collection. You are in good company with photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, James Russell and others. I admire your work and I hope to meet you someday. Best wishes for continued success in your excellent work.”—Edward Evans, Director, William Whipple Gallery, Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, MN."Dear Mr. Rivera-Ortiz: Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your work will be included in the exhibition/publication Viajeros: North American Artist/Photographers Images of Cuba. Thank you for your patience during the past months. The selection procedure was difficult and, of course, subjective. Your work fit into the specific curatorial vision which will present images of Cuba that are provocative, innovative and humanistic. We consider this exhibit an historic and artistic documentation of Cuba during the turbulent years 1992 — 2002. Your images will become a part of a traveling exhibit that will focus upon the Cuban situation and also bring the artists well deserved visibility and recognition. The first exhibition date is scheduled for the fall of 2005, at Lehigh University, Dubois Gallery, Maginnes Hall. The exhibition will then travel for the next two years, terminating in the winter of 2007. Once again congratulations."—Ricardo Viera, Curator, Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, PA.